February 11, 2014
Population Decline and Early Childhood Education
For Release: Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
Subject: Population Decline and Early Child Education
St. John’s, NL: CTV’s recent article on population decline in NL comes to no surprise to those engaged in advocating for quality Early Child Education (ECE). Newfoundland and Labrador’s model of ECE is consistently rated as the poorest in the country and their current 10-year plan will not change that. Research has long identified access to affordable, quality ECE as a critical factor for catalyzing population growth, improving fertility rates and supporting labor market participation of parents. The Jimmy Pratt Foundation’s discussion paper The Early Years Last A Lifetime, documents this research and strives to inform a public conversation for our citizens.
A declining population affects much more than industry – it impacts the nature of communities, the realities of families and the opportunities for children. Attracting skilled workers and young families in today’s economy is a competitive process. Today’s population is increasingly mobile with the luxury of making career decisions based upon the holistic needs of their families.
Imagine a young couple graduating from a post-secondary institution today. They have their first child and are planning a second. They have been offered three relatively parallel positions in Ontario, Alberta and NL. How much will accessibility to and quality of ECE impact their decision of where to move? In looking to this province, they will see a model of ECE that is the poorest and among the most expensive in the country. Only 20% of children under the age of five have access to a regulated child care space and, unlike 80% of Canada, there is no pre- or full-day kindergarten.
Conversely, attracting new Canadians to the province, with larger families and younger children without extended family, is complex. Their children need intensive supports to optimize holistic development to ensure they become productive citizens. A conversation on population growth must reflect the realities facing families as referenced in The Early Years Last A Lifetime.
Dr. David Philpott
Research Chair, Jimmy Pratt Foundation